Yes, I play bass guitar.

For those of you who do not know, I am attending Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, California. Quite a big move from Texas. It’s been an amazing experience thus far. I have met so many incredible people from all around the world, and I am privileged to be taught by some of the foremost movers and shakers in the church on a daily basis. Wild.

There’s a tremendous amount I could say on any given area of the journey I’ve walked so far while being here, but there’s one area that has been an area of great intrigue to me lately.

When I came here for school, I auditioned for the worship team on bass guitar. I made the worship team and have been playing bass for the school since late August/early September. Strangely, it already seems like a lifetime ago.

I began playing bass guitar when I was about 10 years old – so about 21 years ago. Time flies. I remember loving everything about the bass and pouring myself into it. Sting was a hero of mine. However, my perception of bass changed somewhere around my junior year of high school. I was playing with some friends in a band, but I began to realize the bass player was largely out-of-sight and out-of-mind.

It was difficult to feel I was destined to be relegated to the background. Second-fiddle, forevermore. That’s when I bought my first guitar. I loved the bass, but I wanted to be heard and feel proud of what I brought to the table. Enter guitar, stage right.

I spent countless hours over the course of many years learning to play guitar. There were more than a couple of years when I spent at least 2-3 hours everyday working on guitar theory and techniques. I love guitar, but I always found it interesting – no matter how hard I tried, it never quite felt hand-in-glove.

Opportunities would come whether playing in churches or bands, and I always tried to introduce myself as a guitarist. But without fail, they soon found I also played bass. And then regardless of my fruitless endeavors, I was assigned the role of bassist. It was annoying.

I have often said bass is like a boomerang. No matter how far I throw it from me, it always comes back. It seemed I was never going to escape a bass guitar hanging from my shoulders. But that didn’t stop me from trying.

Over the last couple of years, I had finally begun playing lead guitar for two different churches. It was really exciting to be able to step into a role I had been working toward for so long. It was always fun but also stressful. I figured with time, the stress would diminish. And it did to some extent but never entirely.

When I came to BSSM in Redding, people would ask me if I was on the worship team because I looked familiar. I would tell them I played bass, but somewhere inside, I would feel a pang of shame. Weird. I didn’t really know why I felt shame. However, I noticed the shame caused me to quickly explain that back home in Texas, I played lead guitar for two churches. Somehow, I felt the need to show I was more than “just a bassist.”

As this happened more and more, I began to take note of what was going on inside. I felt ashamed to play bass guitar. When did that happen? Somewhere along the way, I learned that a bassist was needed but not really wanted. Countless sets buried in the darkest shadows on every stage. Soundmen perpetually turning my volume down to the point that I’m now unseen and unheard. After two decades of those experiences, I absolutely hated it. Thousands of hours of practice seemingly all for nothing.

I wanted to play guitar, specifically lead guitar – to be seen and heard. I wanted the 20+ years of hard-work I had put into music to mean something. I wanted to feel proud of what I had accomplished and proud of what I brought to the stage.

When I first came to Bethel, every time I walked on stage, I was very stressed. My identity was 100% tied up in how well I played that day. Ad nauseam. It was difficult for me to fully trust the other band members because I was bracing for their disapproval, spoken or unspoken. It’s very hard to have fun when that is the tune marching around your head.

At some point, my walls began to fall, and I began to not only trust those I played with but truly love and respect each of them. Small, subtle, changes sneak up on you without you realizing. The critical voice in my head perpetuating shame was becoming less and less apparent.

I found myself with people who celebrated me and the instrument I played, the bass guitar. After each set, smiles and hugs abound as we champion each other. It is by far the most beautiful and healthy worship culture I have ever seen or experienced. I am forever grateful for what Bethel has cultivated here.

As I spent some time with God praying into these things rumbling through my brain, I realized it was always something far deeper than just bass guitar. The Lord has had me in a process of learning to love and trust myself and resting in who He has made me to be. I don’t have to be something more or something different.

It is difficult to quantify the liberation this has brought me. With each day, I feel more and more comfortable in my own skin. And I’m learning to love myself just as I am and extend grace to myself when needed. I don’t listen to the voice of shame in my head anymore. And strangely enough, bass guitar has become a symbol for this journey.

A couple of weeks ago, when I began processing this, I decided to sell the last of my guitar pedals back in Texas. The money I made from selling it, I bought a new bass microsynth pedal and power supply. I then decided to build a pedalboard for my bass rig. This was my way of saying, I’m all in.

Yesterday was my first worship set with the new bass pedal and pedalboard, and it was the most fun I have ever had playing bass guitar. As amazing as my setup is – what made the difference is I’m now playing from my heart in a way I have not done in a very, very, long time. And it’s just fun. Stupid fun.

So yes, I play bass guitar.

And I love it.

AR

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